A letter to my 21 year old self

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With every passing year, my dear Mum is extremely prone to beautiful, profound and heartfelt messages about how extraordinary life is while also gently reminding me that it moves incredibly fast… blink, and you might just miss it.

I have to admit, I didn’t always believe her  when I was a fresh-faced 21-year-old, I always assumed she was being sentimental. In fact, I was almost hoping she was right. I couldn’t wait to get a full-time job to support my endless supply of cosmos and wardrobe second to none (Carrie Bradshaw may or may not have influenced this particular vision)

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I wanted out of university, studying was a chore and I wasn’t sure who I wanted to be just yet. I wanted to live alone, in a city flat filled with music, somewhere I could write and pour myself a drink at 9am just because I could. I wanted to go travelling on my own and be fully independent. I wanted to feel the warm sand wedged between my toes and fresh sea salt in my hair. I wanted everything yesterday and tomorrow couldn’t come quick enough, especially when it was a Thursday night and a Bacardi breezer was cheaper than a pack of chewing gum at the local night club ‘Nightspot’ 

*Blink*

One decade later, lying in my lap in the form of a red velvet cupcake jammed with glitter candles, is the concrete, unfathomable truth. Thirty one. How did I even get here?

As I blow my glistening birthday candles out in one, swift breath, I try to recall my last decade of memories, wishing I could rewind, press play and pause at the moments I wish I could live in forever. Some years a bundle of blur, yet some moments completely vivid.

The nights out, the nights in, the hysterical highs and the rock bottom lows. The moments you are so happy you think your heart might burst then the days you think your heart might break. Moments that seemed insignificant at the time, but even now, you can still feel the hot sun beating against your face, smell the sweet coconut oil dancing through the air and taste the watermelon Daquiri on your super sunburnt lips.


All those small moments that bring you to exactly where you are right this second. Where you were always meant to be.

Just to clarify, I wouldn’t change a single thing about my 20’s.

Partying till dawn, awful matching bowl hair cuts with my best friend, fancy dress theme for any occasion, rocking an over plucked brow while also sporting a boob tube and flat pumps to go to the local gym (Yes, this is fact – what was I THINKING?) 

Life was easy, old enough to know better but young enough to not care. Life was contemplating new shoes for the next gig line up or working out how I managed to come home from that night out with more money than I went out. 

I recently read an interesting article by super model Lily Cole who wrote her younger self a letter before she was scouted. The letter was filled with pointers, words of wisdom, tough love and self-love.

After discussing this subject at great length with my friends over a bottle of gin at 3am, we laughed and nodded approvingly at the answers provided. All completley different and unsuspecting. What advice or words would you give your 21-year-old self? The answers were deep, dignified and down right hilarious. The answers we didn’t have at the time and maybe didn’t need to know.

So, I thought I would share mine with you.

This is a letter to my 21-year-old self from my 31-year-old self.

I’m watching festival crowds scramble from the rain over a pipping hot Starbucks (yes, some things NEVER change) but I do come bearing some mind-blowing news for you.

You ready?

You’re not married. You’re not a millionaire. You don’t have kids or a puppy and you don’t own a car or a Vespa for that matter. You don’t have a job in publishing, photography or at a travel magazine.

You do have the best family and friends, you do have incredible, unconditional love, you do have a cosy flat to call home and you have a job you really like for the first time, um, ever.

Now, you won’t want to change a single thing. Every choice, every path, every turn, every bump along the way has made you, well, you.

But, I want to give you this letter. Little things I want you to know, little reassurances that everything works itself out in the end. I know right now, you might not believe me and you can be incredibly self-righteous but try to listen, ok?

Ahemmmm…

1. Right now, you’re out celebrating your 21st worrying about how patchy the tan on your legs look, how many freckles you have and how you’re having a bad fringe day. STOP. You are beautiful and looks are only skin deep. Get out the bog and go dance to your favourite Arctic Monkeys song, now!

2. Learn to love YOU… know your worth, treat yourself with the respect and love you deserve. #selflove

3. It’s totally OK to put yourself first. You have to learn to say no. It sounds tough, right? You will never please everyone, it will take you years to learn this but it’s a fact.

4. Enjoy your own company, you’ll grow to love it and need it. 

5. Please, do NOT use that home hair die… that golden brown WILL, I repeat will, turn your hair full on black. Ekkkkkk. 

6. You’ll get to see the world and travel… it’s everything you imagined and more. You will learn so much about you. Write down every memory – you’ll want to remember everything!

7. Mum is (usually) always right! Try to listen – she knows what she’s talking about and has your best interests at heart.

8. As each birthday passes, you’ll realise how small you are in this huge, incredible and magically mysterious world. Make it count.

9. It’s never too early to start investing in some good skincare or actually washing your face properly after a night out! Look after your skin and your skin will look after you.

10. Live in the present. Stop worrying about yesterday, you can’t change it. Stop worrying about tomorrow, it’s not happened yet.

11. Soooooo… don’t put that veet for legs on your face, ok? OK? #burnmarks #redmoustache #notpretty #whytho

12. Be kind to everyone, you never know what kind of battles they are fighting.

13. Wear your brace retainer… for the love of god!

14. Don’t be afraid to speak out when you have too, even if your voice is trembling.

15. You’re sometimes a little weird. You’re sometimes a little different. Don’t ever change YOU or try to be someone else.

16. It’s totally ok to make mistakes.

17. You’ll learn so much about the world, people, cultures, politics… always stay interested and help those you can. 

18. Work hard. Keep your head down.

19. Breathe when it all gets too much. It’s OK to not be OK sometimes.

20. Keep hugging, loving and smiling.

21. Boys can be assholes, stay strong and stubborn. Enjoy being single and one day, someone will sweep you off your feet (or get you really drunk, salsa dance you into a frenzy and look at you like no-one else ever has)

Oh, and please lay off that tequila – you may or may not have alcohol poisoning for the next two days.

To the next ten….

Love always,

Ash ❤️ 

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The Great Scottish Escape

Let’s face it. Sometimes life can get pretty hectic.

If you’re lucky, you manage to find a seat on the early morning bus or train into work after scrambling desperately for a seat. It’s regularly crammed with empty crisp packets and sleepy commuters, who have their heads burried deep into an IPhone, carrying a strong, still, scoulding expression, reminiscent of their first cup of coffee that’s not fully kicked in yet.

At work, you reply to emails, answer calls, attend meetings, become ever so aware of that looming daily deadline and if you are anything like me, often contemplate running off to Ibiza, where you’ll set up a beach bar and consume daiquiris the size of your head on an oversized flamingo. Sounds super dreamy, right?


The travel home from work often feels like a zombie apocalypse, like the world is ending and everyone is trying to escape on the M8 or 22 bus. After impatiently waiting for your ride home that’s running ten minutes late, you are greeted by last nights dirty dishes and then spend an hour gazing at the fridge and wonder what you can whip up with your key ingredients – spinach and marshmallow fluff.

You wish Joe Wicks ‘Lean in 15’ would stop staring at you from the cupboard shelf with that beautiful hair and  washboard stomach while getting out a spoon for said marshmallow fluff.

Hanger 1 – You – 0.

And your social life? Ha, well – that’s another story. Dinner dates, work drinks, family catch ups, meeting friends you’ve not seen in 20 years but can’t cancel AGAIN as you’ve used all excuses while also struggling to stay on top of your group WhatsApp and striving to maintain a healthy relationship with your significant other. And BREATHE. #firstworldproblems

Not that I’m complaining, infact – quite the opposite! I love my job. I’m blessed to have an amazing group of friends and family. And my bus journey doesn’t have zombies, no. Well… not at every stop! And as IF I want to live in Ibiza and drink cocktails anyway.

Although I can’t help feeling, that every so often, when it’s been raining and the day has totally kicked my ass up and down, all I want to do is curl up on the couch with Kevin Spacey and a tub of my favourite Ben and Jerry’s. (Choc fudge brownie – obvs!)

I guess that’s just… life.

Sometimes you just want to get away from it all, right? Relax, kick back and have zero plans with zero people. Escape and go see the world. Be a hermit and stay in your pj’s for days. Not wash your hair for a week because you can. See if you can burp the alphabet after one too many ciders. No? Just… me?

With no proper time off work since February, I felt it was time to book in a chill holiday and escape the Monday to Friday 9-5. But with a pending visit to see my brothers in Australia – it would have to be somewhere that wouldn’t break the bank.

So, where could I feel at peace, have some serious down time… be surrounded by  postcard views and feel fresh air crowd my lungs?

Where could I be eaten by midges, feel the rain dribble off my just applied mascara and witness constant moody over cast skies? Scotland. Yeah, you guessed it. No where else in the world quite like it. 

While searching for the perfect staycation, I had a small mental checklist of what would be just perfect. I happened to stumble across a little gem called ‘The birds nest’ on Airbnb that happened to tick all the boxes, or ‘on paper’ was totally our type! Nestled in the farm lands of Aviemore – I pressed BOOK NOW and already had started counting down the days for our get away.

The day soon arrived! YAY.

After packing an excessive amount of all weather clothing, emptying Tesco shelves of beer, cider and essentials like strawberry laces, we set off on our adventure to our converted workshop for 3 full nights… we were SUPER excited! Maybe too excited as we ended up driving east coast towards to Aberdeen instead of North before realising we had missed a turn off. Holy crisps! It only put another hour or so onto the journey. Great. It was also approximately 20 odd degrees. That’s what you get when you think you are more savvy than the trusty satnav.

The road to get to our humble abode was a long, winding, super dusty track passing a beautiful array of quirky homes and a small pond, with nothing but a few ducks and boats floating over the gorgeous blue reflective water. Stunning!

As we drove past, I was almost hanging out the window trying to take 100 pictures – there was so much GREEN! After driving  over a small bridge with a passing steam train and what can only be described as a 180 degree bend – we had finally MADE it!

We checked in with Emily, the lovely owner of the nest who lovingly built the cabin with her husband as a project on their farm. It was perfect. I ran up and down with excitement, I mean, I knew it was going to be amazing but WOW. Just what I was looking for, secluded Scottish countryside.


The birds nest overlooks farmland and has a stunning view of the Cairngorms in the backdrop. It’s like someone has blown up a postcard and popped it on your window ledge. The weather was (I know we all say this being typically Scottish) but actually TOO HOT!

The cows were grazing, the sheep singing, deer dancing and hens clucking. I was suddenly an extra in the sound of music! Julie Andrews eat your heart out!

The interior was decorated in a very minimalist, super cool Scandinavian style that looked so effortless. You know, when cool people just throw cool things together but if you tried it might look like someone’s broke in and stole all your furniture. Yip, hear you.

With a compact kitchen space, couple of rocking chairs and a view from the kitchen overlooking the vast fields next to a small wood burning stove that would be perfect for winter nights… think hot chocolate, toasting marshmallows with a good book. *Cameron Diaz – the holiday* type scanario.


The steep, wooden staircase lead up to the mezzanine level – which holds a gorgeous lounge area and massive bed, all carefully designed and immaculately positioned. I couldn’t believe it was all HAND MADE in someone’s spare time. I mean, I don’t have enough time to get my nails done never mind build a cool converted cabin! Mental note: Must make better use of time!


The only thing that took me by surprise was the compost toilet. Basically, no standard flush but sawdust in its place. Totally in with the ecological and environmental friendly vibe the cabin has going on! It’s definitely enough to push the boundaries of a closer than close relationship, let’s just keep it at that peeps. Also – for a hoverer, it wasn’t easy.

The sun gods answered my prayers and it was a schorcher…. 25 degrees and climbing. So, we jumped in the car and headed down towards the beach to catch some rays. A MUST do is visit Loch Morlich. I could have been in Ibiza – although in Ibiza I would have had on a bikini like most normal people, not my heavy mom jeans, heels and a yellow top that would result in bad tan lines. I was feeling SO chilled already and seeing the breathtaking scenery was making me feel happy inside.

The water was clear, the sand was warm, the smell of the burgers over a BBQ was enough to make me drool (quite literally all over Chris’ t-shirt, whoops!) Now where is that daiquiri when you need it most? 🍸

After a few hours and some seriously bad tanlines, we decided to pop up the Cairngorms to catch some views with our lunch. It was a 90 degree hill and since we were packing some extra layers, the car wasn’t just stifling – it was struggling to even get past 20 miles an hour to the top. Some lads on cycles were passing us by, I’m sure I caught one of them sniggering and asking if we needed a push. Erm, yes please!?

We got there eventually and the views were epic. Still beautiful and the sun was shining all over the mountains, glistening across the water and manovering in and out the clouds above. I had NO signal. Nothing on my iPhone. I didn’t even miss it. The scenery was so amazing I felt like all my worries were drifting off into the clouds above.

After returning back to our retreat, having a few ciders and playing a cards for a few hours, we decided to hit the road. Emily explained we can walk into town easily through a forest that should only take an hour or so. Perfect. We had our maps looked out and felt confident we knew what we were doing.

The walk was beautiful and green… I felt like I was in Canada or America, out in the wilderness with wild dear hoping around, midges eating me alive. I repeatedly asked Chris if he knew where we were going and assuming he knew the way. Emm, negative. One hour in and no sight of human life, we realised we missed a path along the way. SO US!

I must admit, there is something nice about feeling lost. Feeling a million miles away from everyone and everything. We stumbled across an old steam railway just before sunset. Looking down the tracks, I wondered where the train was going. I wondered what was at the end of the road, the final destination.

It was so quiet, it was amazing to be switched off from the world for a while.

Then… I started thinking about WHAT THE HELL was going on in Love Island… Get me to the pub. Ahh! Where’s the wifi at peeps?

The rest of our time away was filled with eating, drinking, Cairngorm brewery tours, reading and writing. I can’t remember the last time I felt so relaxed and chilled. I can’t recommend it enough my friends, and even if you just need a long weekend, this is PERFECT for you.

Here are my top 5 tips for your escape in Aviemore – your must see and do’s.

1. Visit the Cairngorm brewery for a tour and LOTS of beer tasting afterwards. Malkie (who calls himself Malkie the Alkie) is absolutely brilliant and is also a stand up comedian. Best £5 you’ll spend… do NOT take the car!

2. Eat breakfast at The Mountian Cafe, grab a full breakfast and a slice of homemade cake, the selection is UNREAL. You are SO welcome.

3. Visit Loch Morlich and go kayaking, we totally would have if a certian someone didn’t get sea sick. The beach is beautiful. You can always pack a picnic and a few beers.

4. Stay at ‘The Birds Nest‘ in Aviemore, I think the pictures say it all. Make sure you have a car and walk into town is around an hour. Fresh eggs provided and THE comfiest bed.

5. Walk up the Cairngorms and see Scotland in all its beautiful-ness! If you pack rubbish shoes like me… you can always pop on the train up to the top to the cafe for a quick drink before heading back down.

Hope you enjoy the recommendations and if anyone could bring me home a big slice of red velvet – I would love you forever.

It’s pretty nice to sometimes just take some time out of everyday LIFE. Switch off, recharge those batteries, take a step back and realise that life is actually pretty…  extraordinary.

Ash ❤️